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Pakistan's Supreme Court Removes Prime Minister From Office

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

In Pakistan, there's turmoil after the Supreme Court dismissed the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, from his position following a corruption scandal. The five-judge bench said they did not believe Sharif was honest or trustworthy. As NPR's Diaa Hadid reports from Islamabad, the court's decision has divided Pakistan.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Chanting in foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting in foreign language).

DIAA HADID, BYLINE: The drama played outside the stately Supreme Court building in Islamabad. Supporters of the prime minister snuck in through the security barricades.

(CROSSTALK)

HADID: They were quickly encircled by police, who swarmed the area.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Our best wishes with Mr. Mian Nawaz Sharif. We will come again and again.

HADID: Sharif's supporters may just have to do that because the court not only dismissed Sharif, it also ordered trials into Sharif's financial dealings and that of the people around him - the finance minister, who's also a relative by marriage, and his son-in-law, who's a parliamentarian. The court also ordered trials into the financial dealings of his children, including his daughter Maryam. Many here believe she was being groomed to take her father's job.

This was all triggered by last year's Panama Papers document leak. It showed the Sharif family linked to expensive apartments in London through offshore companies. Many Pakistanis have applauded Sharif's dismissal. It has helped upturn his political dynasty. And they believe it will help root out the corruption in Pakistan's politics.

POLITICIAN FIRDOUS ASHIQ AWAN: (Foreign language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Foreign language spoken).

HADID: Firdous Ashiq Awan, an opposition politician, tells supporters Nawaz's family will go to jail. And somebody yells out, inshallah - God willing. But Sharif's supporters see the hands of Pakistan's powerful military behind all this. They note that two military men were on the court-appointed team investigating his family's finances. Political analyst Ammara Durrani says this is about a different Pakistani institution.

AMMARA DURRANI: So what we are seeing is a Supreme Court trying to bring about reforms after decades of being characterized as a tool by the military or a tool by political actors to be used for dismissing governments. This is probably the first time whereby a full-member Supreme Court bench has tried to assert itself as an honest broker.

HADID: She says the case also shows how Pakistan has changed in recent years.

DURRANI: For the first time in our history, we are seeing a political drama play out in complete openness, which is good because historically, this is a country which has seen the muzzling of press, which has seen denial of access to information that perpetuated on democratic measures.

HADID: Durrani says finding a replacement for Sharif won't be easy.

DURRANI: This is a government where Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been, for the first time in Pakistan's history, an all-powerful prime minister. He has been the first elected prime minister who has held unprecedented legal and administrative powers.

HADID: With Sharif gone, Durrani says Pakistan may yet witness a sudden crisis in governance in the weeks and months ahead. Diaa Hadid, NPR News, Islamabad.

(SOUNDBITE OF FROYO MA SONG, "SQUID LIMBO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.